My “Let’s Not Meet” Story: Creeper at the Walgreens

As I say in my “Welcome” section, I listen to a few podcasts that many would consider dark and sometimes morbid. One of the lesser podcasts I’ll listen to that really pushes my paranoia up a level is called Let’s Not Meet: A True Horror Podcast recorded by Andrew Tate. Tate accepts and narrates listener-submitted true stories of unsettling accounts of the strangest and in some cases most deadliest encounters regular people of every day life go through.

I believe we all have had these times. I certainly have, especially during my six-year run having worked for a popular drugstore chain. The following is my “Let’s Not Meet (Again)” story. I formatted the narrative to be much like if it were being read in Tate’s soothing, quiet-spoken voice (he really is great to listen to, I suggest you find his episodes on Spotify!).

So, here it is:

Creeper at the Walgreens.

I worked for the popular drugstore chain, Walgreens, for about six years of my life. Six long years of growing a thick skin when it came to serving the general public. Everyone who has worked with the public consumer pool understand the tough times that come with the job: customers who are pissed off at the littlest things as if they’re just waiting for you to make one mistake so they can scream in your face, people who act as if you are out to shortchange them a dollar off a sale item, those who are eager to demand the manager, etc.

It never ends, and eventually, you come face-to-face with your first awful customer encounter. My first one happened on my second day; a man who appeared to be in his late seventies or eighties decided he didn’t like how many vitamin caplets came in one bottle. Why in the world did we not carry any smaller sizes? What was wrong with us? Note that this was my second day at this job, my very first morning at the front register. He was literally my second customer. I didn’t even know how to respond; I was so shocked I was being yelled at for something that I thought he was joking about at first.

Luckily, another customer was behind him and interfered by ordering him to stop yelling at me and to just leave if he didn’t like the pill counts. It turned into an argument that my manager had to quell, and I stood there fighting back tears. Since then, I experienced similar interactions, but the longer I worked for several different locations (due to moving), I grew a thicker skin when dealing with people, problematic customers and coworkers alike.

Except one. I didn’t know how to handle this one, and I hate that I had to. I’m thrilled that I no longer have to. In fact, I’m happy I no longer live in the same town where I could possibly run into him. As much as I hope no one who works in retail ever has to deal with awful customers, I truly, very much hope no one has to deal with a situation like this ever.

                This was at my last Walgreens, just past my fifth year of being an employee for the chain. My position in the stores changed a few times, and at the end, I was the beauty consultant, a new position that corporate created in order to make a more interactive experience for customers who shopped the cosmetic and skincare sections. Basically, they trained us to wear brush belts, apply tester makeup on anyone who wanted to try out our new featured brands, have full knowledge of products and suggest new items.

It was odd at first, but I learned to enjoy it as it gave me a more professional feel to what was first a stand-at-the-front-counter job. I didn’t have to handle totes or tubs, unload endless amounts of truck for hours. It was pretty cushy, and a lot of coworkers were envious that I didn’t have to do as much as they did. I considered it a level up after years of retail hell. I figured, “hey, this isn’t awful.”

                It was during a fierce winter storm that this particular customer came in. Despite the icy streets outside, Walgreens would never dream of shutting down. Perhaps that’s why when this guy, not too far from my own age (in his early twenties I want to say as I was), started a conversation with me, I wasn’t too put off by his eager conversation. I don’t remember how we started talking; I may have asked him if he needed help finding anything, as I was supposed to with every single person who walked by my counter. I’ll admit, I probably was receptive to any conversation that wasn’t an argument about the prices in our store being higher than Walmart’s.

                Anyways, this guy seemed okay. We just had a casual talk about the weather being so awful. He mentioned he was surprised we were still open, and I rolled my eyes and said it’d take a mandated city order to force our district manager to actually close the store. This is when the guy said he was happy we were still open because he really needed his prescription. He explained that he came by to pick it up, in person, every single day. It was how the prescription was set up, and he couldn’t collect too many doses at once.

                This was…very odd to me. First off, not many customers are willing to disclose information about their medication and it was never our place to ask. But this guy was willing to share, so again, I thought maybe it wasn’t that odd after all. He was probably comfortable explaining it, so I didn’t think of it too much.

                I’ll admit, there was a small signal going off in my head that something was off about this guy. He appeared normal; he had an average face and build, but I did notice he shifted a lot from one foot to the other in a constant shifting and smiled very big as if we had been longtime friends catching up.

 But we weren’t, the smile never wavered, and though I wouldn’t say any of this was alarming, there was just something that seemed unusual about him. For a moment, due to his persistent smiling and overly friendly nature, the swaying on his feet, I thought, “maybe he has a mental thing. Maybe he’s slow or has Asperger’s or something that makes him come off a little awkward.” I had worked with the special education class in my high school, so I figured this was why this guy seemed different. STOPPED HERE EDITING.

                After a while, he finally walked back to the pharmacy, picked up his white, paper bagged medicine, and gave me a quick “see you later” before heading out. At that point, my husband and two stepsons had walked in. It was right before my clock-out time and he had dropped me off due to the ice and was there to get me. He had noticed the guy talk to me before he left, and he also felt there was something just off about the guy. We left it at that, thinking this was just a one-time run in.

                We were wrong.

                The guy came in frequently after this. I hadn’t been at this store for  a long time; only a couple of years since I had married my husband and moved from out of state to live with him in our apartment. But I had never seen this guy before, though he claimed to be a frequent customer, and now I was seeing him a lot. He’d come in, say it was for daily refill, and lurk around my countertop at the cosmetic section as he waited for the pharmacy to call his name over the speakers.

                He grinned every second. After a while, it no longer seemed friendly but unnerving and made me feel wary. I found myself feeling relieved when he would collect his refill and wave on his way out. I would sigh contently knowing he usually didn’t come back.

                One day, a coworker at the front pulled me aside. She said, “You know that guy who comes in and always talks to you? He came up to me the other day. He asked me for your schedule.”

                I didn’t know how to respond to this. A little flattered, I’ll admit; I had been an ugly duckling in high school and only had really gotten into using makeup and doing my hair for the beauty consultant job, so I wasn’t used to flirting, even after having dated and marrying my husband. But just like everything else with this guy, something wasn’t right. After all, this guy could have asked me for my schedule. Why was he going to my coworkers about it? I also had a small sign posted with my hours by my counter, for people who wanted to test makeup to know when to come in.

                My coworker said, “Listen, he seems into you, and you can’t control that but maybe be careful with that guy? He’s…kind of weird, right?”

                I agreed. There was definitely some odd air about him everyone could detect but couldn’t pin it exactly to one thing about him.

                I tried mentioning this situation to my manager, specifically about how this guy was asking for my schedule. However, there was another coworker in the office, another man, who cracked a joke, saying, “Oh, yeah, you’re getting all sorts of customers over there now! Soon he’ll be asking for you to give him a makeup session!”

                The manager laughed and my concerned comment died on arrival. They didn’t seem to think anything of it, so should I? After all, the guy seemed infatuated but nothing so far seemed serious, so was there a point to say something? I decided it was okay for then, and if something happened, I would definitely say something to tell the guy to stop and go on.

                For a while, it didn’t seem off, except the guy grew more and more comfortable visiting the cosmetic section whenever he came in, which was nearly every day. He would make nervous jokes as if he was scared I wouldn’t laugh or find him funny. However, that odd feeling I got when he was around grew undeniable and tangible. I became very pinned to my spot behind my counter so he couldn’t stand right next to me. I always made eye contact with the front counter employee so they could see who exactly I was with. It was only my female coworkers who seemed to understand. All of the men would make a smirk and an exaggerated wink as if I was purposefully reeling this guy in on a flirting hook.

One day, in the mix of these conversations, he noticed one of the signs that corporate had sent which entailed the services that I, as their beauty consultant, provided.

“Hand massages, huh?” His smile only grew, which made my stomach shrink and forced smile tighten. “Do I…have to pay for it?”

I reluctantly said, “No, they’re a free perk we give. It has to be with this flowery lotion, though. I doubt you’d want your hands smelling like that.”

But no. He assured me he didn’t mind at all and asked if he could have one.

Everything in me screamed no. But my professional smile stayed in place, and I nodded smally and relented, “Yeah, if you’re sure.”

Of course, he was sure. He was very much, too eagerly sure. He sat in the white, faux-leather chair that was posted in front of a vanity, all mostly for my makeup trials, but unfortunately now for one of the worst moments of my sales life. I grabbed the pink bottle of lotion and silently prayed that I wasn’t really going to have to do this, that he would say “just kidding,” or another customer would interrupt (they always seemed to when I was legitimately busy, but now that I needed someone to, absolutely no one was walking towards my area).

I swear, I think he was bouncing a little as he sat in the chair and lifted up one pale hand. I remember him not being overweight persay, but his hands were plump around the knuckles so it was like squeezing cool dough. I warmed the lotion in my palms and did what I was trained to do: run both my hands over the top and bottom of his, gently pulling so the lotion would go on evenly, and even lacing our fingers so I could carefully rotate his wrist.

I had done this service for a lot of people. Some customers, understandably, found it a little too out of place to get a hand massage at the Walgreens drugstore. Trust me, I agree, it’s odd, but this was the weirdest moment.

And the most awkward and sickening. And I have had a lot of awful experiences.

This guy did not take the hand massage like a normal person, either. Generally, people will just hold their hand out, fingers splayed, and either comment how wonderful the hand cream was or ask about other products I had to feature. This guy, and I am not exaggerating about this in the slightest, was moaning during the entire too-long five minutes I spent. Perhaps I cut it shorter than that, but it felt incredibly too long listening to this garbled croon in his throat.

Not only was it audibly cringe-worthy but his hand kept grasping mine back! His fingers kept pressuring as if trying to hold my hand, and I just about snapped aloud, “Your hand should be like a corpse! I should not be getting gripped back!”

But I didn’t. The queasiness in my stomach spread and all I could do was hurry through the process and routine steps to get it done. And, of course, he asked if I could do his other hand.

 My manager came around the corner of the front aisle then, right by the front doors. I hoped so strongly that he would look over and see this guy, the one who I had told him was asking for my schedule and never came in without stopping by to talk incessantly. I met his eyes and hoped mine were begging enough for him to see what was happening, but I understand that from more than several feet away, this probably wasn’t likely. Also, he had his black backpack on one shoulder; he was on his way out. So, he raised his hand and called “See you tomorrow, Abbie.”

When the guy finally left after that, sniffing at his fingertips and palms and eyeing me with gleeful stare and expressing how good I was, I wanted to throw up. I had done a lot of things for the job that were humbling; taking out unspeakable trash that leaked from outside, cleaning bathrooms with questionable stains and bodily fluids that just ended up anywhere but the toilet, or kneeling on the dirty tile to use a razor blade to scrape off torn bits of sales tags that littered the shelf liners. But this was too much. I wanted to take the sign and throw it out, but instead, I unlatched it from its hook and hid it under my counter space. I would offer it by word-of-mouth from then on, but I would not be asked to ever do it again if I chose not to.

But why didn’t I get that courageous thought before I had to do that? To this day, I still feel uneasy about that.

                My husband was not too happy about any of this when I mentioned it kept happening, this guy who seemed dedicated to visit every other day to say hello and so much more unwanted conversation. He said to really talk to the manager, one-on-one. I said I didn’t feel there was much I could do; after all, this guy was just talking. He never said anything too weird, just everyday small talk. When I did say something about it to my assistant manager, who was my age and also a woman, she said I had her full permission to go back to the stock room if this guy came in and I didn’t feel like dealing with him. She said if she saw him come in, she would call me to the office so I could wait it out until he was gone. This arrangement made me feel better, but that creeping suspicion that this guy was not entirely of good intentions never shook off.

                One day, it proved right.

                It was a slow day, and I hadn’t seen the guy for a week or so. Sometimes that happened, which was confusing since he said he couldn’t get his refills for too long and had to come by frequently. He walked right over to my counter before I had a chance to make a dash behind an aisle or to the back. My assistant manager wasn’t there, so no one would call me to the office. That day, though, I felt moderately okay with letting him get his daily chatter in, so whatever. I would let him talk and move on, just like usual.

                But that day, what he said totally caught me off guard.

                “I saw you the other day.” That same freaking grin was on his wide lips, and I didn’t like the way his eyes peered at me excitedly as he said this.

                “You mean Monday?” Mondays were my days off, and I thought maybe he meant he saw me out in public. Sometimes customers would mention they’d seen me at the pub my husband and I frequented. Again, just normal conversation. Nothing too odd…yet.

                “No, it was yesterday. You were here.” He paused as if telling a punchline and waiting for me to laugh.

                But no, I didn’t get it. “Well, you mean you saw me here?”

                How was this news? Maybe he came in to get his refill and just didn’t have time to say hi?

                “Well, I saw you but you didn’t see me. Like, I saw you working. But you didn’t see where I was.”

                My stomach was shrinking painfully, and I immediately wanted to run. I did not like what he was saying, and that physical suspiscioun that had been growing was now yelling its full alert. “Wait, what do you mean I didn’t see you?”

                “Well…” He was on the verge of laughing, as if the story was just hilarious and it was even funnier that it was going over my head. He kept shoving his hands in and out of his pockets of his pants. “I had to go to the photo shop next door? I didn’t have to come in here, but I was walking by the windows. I saw you working at your counter. You were just standing here, working, and so I just watched you for a while. I thought it’d be weird if I just came in to say hi, you know, since I didn’t have anything to actually get. So, yeah.”

                This was less weird? Telling me that he purposefully stopped at the windows and stared in to watch me while I worked unknowingly was less weird?

                What in the actual hell?

                I couldn’t respond with much more than, “Um, okay. Just say hi next time, though, ‘kay?”

                No, please never come back. This is suddenly much too weird and I’d rather not see you ever again. Please, go away.

                I kept back my word vomit and thankfully he left me. He went back to the pharmacy because of course he couldn’t just go on and leave. I immediately went to the office to my locker, grabbed my phone, and texted my husband what I could in a short message before I would be told to get back on the floor and stay off my phone.

                When I was back out there, nervous rattling and fingers tapping anxiously on my counter, a figure rushed from the front doors and to me.

                It was my husband, his eyes narrowed and mouth in a hard line. Immediately, he says, “Where is he?”

                I say, holding my hands up, “I think he’s at the pharmacy. Look, don’t make a scene please. I don’t want you getting involved in a fight or something.”

                Not a moment later, the guy walks back, paper bag in hand for whatever medicine he needed and clearly was probably not helping him. He came up, let out a nervous chuckle and muttered a “see you,” raising his hand in a half attempt at…touching my shoulder? Patting my back? His hand reached but fell short…

                …it may have been my husband standing at my side, glaring him down so angrily I could feel the heat coming off his stare.

                But I felt relief cool my frantic nerves. Finally, someone was right there with me. And what he had said was not normal. It was unsettling and clearly stalker-talk. A stalker who found nothing weird with telling someone he was watching them while they were clueless.

                I mean, this time he had said something. How many other times had there been? He knew my work schedule. My car was parked off to the side and back of the store. Did he see me go back and forth there?

                At this point, my husband said very directly, “Tell your boss what he just said. Tell him you’ve had it and this is serious. Or I’ll have words with him about it.”

                Now note: my husband was not angry with me. He knew I had tried bringing this up before and how a joke was made and it was all dismissed. But this was too much for me and for him. And he is very protective, not in a possessive way but enough to actually follow through with this if nothing was done.

                So the next day, my manager had come by my counter to discuss sale counts, how many makeup trials I was doing, and what goals to focus on in terms of suggestive item sales. Before he could go, I said his name clearly and gestured him to stand a little closer so no customers in the aisles could hear me. I told him in a serious tone about this customer, the one who had asked for my schedule, who always came over to talk to me for long periods of time about nothing, had just expressed how he watched me through the windows without my knowing and felt it a normal thing to explain to me. I was prepared to tell my manager that my husband was concerned (well, that was a polite way of saying he was furious), but before I could, I realized my manager’s face switched from attentive and listening to very serious and concerned.

                He asked, “This is that one who goes to the pharmacy nearly every day, right?”

                He had seen us talking a lot, worked in the pharmacy in the mornings himself to help with the early afternoon flux of prescription fills and pick-ups, so he knew exactly who I was talking about.

                I nodded, and he returned the gestured again. He said, “I’ll take care of this. If he comes in again and comes up to you, tell him you have to go and go to the office immediately.”

                Again, new a sense of relief. I was heard this time, and our manager was a no-nonsense type, no BS, why-did-this-work-not-get-done type. But this situation I needed that.

                I don’t know how that conversation went, but a few days later, the guy came in but…

                He stayed a far distance away from me, walking in swiftly towards the pharmacy area and just giving me a small smile and wave. He left just the same, a quick wave and smile. No up-close encounter, no flimsy conversation, nothing. Whatever my manager had done, it had worked.

                It was right around that time that a pharmacy tech I talked with on occasion texted me one evening. He was aware of my situation and though he never saw me and guy talking, he said he was very sure who I described. Apparently, all of the pharmacy techs didn’t like him and thought he was off, too.

He wrote, “Do NOT tell anyone I sent you this. But you should see it.” A link was in the text, a news source with a story headline:

                “Man Arrested in Local Attempted Pharmacy Robbery.”

                I tapped on the link with my thumb and felt my stomach clench as I saw the picture of the man in question:

                It was him. The guy who always had to stop and talk for miles about nothing with me. Who joked about me putting makeup on him someday. Who made me regret that stupid sign that said I’d offer hand massages.

                The news report said that he had gone to another drugstore chain which was literally up the street from our location. In fact, I remembered when this happened, only a year before. The story reported that he had gone inside, went up to the pharmacy counter, and slipped a note to the tech working that read he had a weapon and to fill a bag with all of the narcotics they had along with the cash from their registers.

                It hadn’t worked, though I don’t recall exactly how. He didn’t get anything and was arrested directly outside of the store. It said that following his arrest, he had been treated for mental illness and was sent to serve his probation time in Florida with his grandparents.

                Eventually, I quit seeing him after that altogether. I don’t know if my manager took it further and just told him to go through the drive-thru, though I don’ t think he had a vehicle, or if he decided it was best to go elsewhere. All I know is that I had never felt unsafe in my job, not like that. Well, okay, there have been a couple of other instances, but they were a one-event, one night only moment in my years. I had never had someone made me feel consistently unsafe for weeks or more.

For a while after, even though I didn’t see him in the store, I made sure I knew where my pepper spray was in my purse at all times, sometimes holding it in my hand as I walked to my car in the evening hours. I made sure to bring it up to our trainer of the beauty consultants within our district that posting schedules and certain offered services may not be wholly safe or good for their workers, and there was good reception on my concerns. Our district trainer had listened to my story and made it transparently clear to current BCs and new hires:

You do not have to give any service to anyone who seems problematic. Especially hand massages.

                I left the Walgreens not too longer after that, having been offered a position in a local office where customer service was not a responsibility. I talked to my replacement a couple of weeks later. One of the coworkers from the front said, “Hey, make sure you tell her about that guy. He’s been coming back around recently.”

                I asked the young woman who replaced me if she knew what the front worker meant. She said yes, that some weird guy kept coming in and kept stopping by her counter to chat with her. She said he seem nice but was kind of creepy, and she wasn’t sure about him. I told her to talk to the manager, that he would know exactly who it was and he would make him stop. I really laid it out that she didn’t have to talk to anyone who gave her such a weird vibe and to not let anyone brush it off.

                I hope she listened. I never heard from anyone that anything happened, so hopefully she did.

                Ever since then, I’ve learned to always be safe rather than be polite, and when I have to voice my concerns, to be louder about it and make it clear when I think something is serious and not a joke. I hope others know this well from word of mouth rather than from personal experience. It could have definitely gotten much worse, and I’m so thankful it didn’t. I’m happy my actual well-being wasn’t accosted, even though it’s not okay I was made to feel so vulnerable and unsafe to maintain a professional smile and attitude.

                So, to the creeper guy who likes to watch workers at the Walgreens…

                Let’s never meet again. Ever.

2 thoughts on “My “Let’s Not Meet” Story: Creeper at the Walgreens

  1. I’m glad your supervisors tried to help you. I wish they had taken it to upper management right away though. I experienced something similar, but no serious actions were ever taken… just the “hide in the back until he goes away.” One coworker even suggested that we should tell him I was pregnant (what?).

    Like

    1. alvestalrose

      It’s insane how people in general act as if it’s better to be polite to the creeps than to actually provide safety and security for the ones who are being affronted by them. I hope your situation improved.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s